Michael Kiel

Write down your goals, and find an accountability partner. Write down your ideas, and organize them in terms of effort.


Michael Kiel is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for boating and online marketing. He is the founder and captain of the startup Boat Planet, an online marketplace for connecting boat owners with reviewed and trusted marine professionals. Additionally, Michael heads up the Lake of the Ozarks Boaters group, a 25,000-member Facebook group for people who love boating at the No. 1 recreational lake in the country. He also founded a full-service inbound marketing and SEO agency that was a top HubSpot partner, as well as a commercial real estate and design firm. On the weekends, you can find him entertaining friends on his boat at the lake, shopping at local farmers markets, or cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

When I needed some work done on my boat, I did what most boaters do: I asked my dock neighbors for referrals, or I jumped on Google. The problem was that dock neighbors weren’t always around when problems occurred, and I was rather surprised that I couldn’t find a good resource on Google. There had to be a better solution.

So I created a Facebook group for my local boating community at the Lake of the Ozarks. My idea for the group was for it to be a resource for boaters to ask questions, share tips, and find help. It started as a group of a couple hundred boaters, most of whom I recognized from seeing out on the water. It quickly grew, however, to more than 25,000 passionate boaters, marine professionals, and local experts in less than a year. As the group grew, I noticed a problem: Boaters in the group were constantly asking the group for a trusted professional to work on their boat. The same professionals were looking to advertise to and connect with the boaters. As a solution to bring the two together, Boat Planet was born.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

A typical day for me right now involves being pulled in a lot of directions. I’m a big fan of delegating work that I am not very good at or don’t like doing. However, I have a very small team at the moment while we are in fundraising mode. I’m not a super early riser, so I typically wake up around 7 a.m. and check my email and Facebook group. After getting ready, I’ll make the short 1-mile drive to my office and get there around 9 a.m. Sometimes I’ll take a Lime scooter if it’s nice out.

My office is located in the Cortex district of St. Louis. I really enjoy my office because I’m surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs. Because I’m in a co-working space, I have to plan out all of my phone calls and meetings ahead of time, which helps me stay productive. My phone calls are made from soundproof phone booths, and my meetings are held in fancy new conference rooms. I’m pretty efficient with my time, so most of my lunches and dinners consist of premade meals. Right now, I’m using Freshly, and I enjoy it. It probably saves me a couple hours per day.

I like to set goals, and I have an accountability partner I meet with every two weeks. This motivates me to get done what I need to get done and forces me to set SMART goals.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Most of my ideas come to me at the most inopportune moments. When I’m driving or when I’m by myself, my mind is allowed to wander. I’m a big fan of documenting any idea that comes to mind, so I use the Notes app on my phone or Trello to jot down my ideas. I’ll come back to these ideas later when my mind is clear and I can expand upon them. I like to organize my ideas in terms of effort. Then, after I’ve tested an idea, I can label it a success or a failure. Low-effort, high-impact ideas are labeled a success. High-effort, low-impact ideas are labeled a failure.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One trend that really excites me is the growth of the outdoor recreation industry. A new government report found that outdoor recreation accounted for more than $400 billion in economic activity in 2016. That’s more than 2 percent of our entire GDP. Not surprisingly, the majority of that number comes from boating and fishing. This is why I consider recreational boating to be a stealth industry.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

As I’ve already said, I’m a huge fan of delegating work. Entrepreneurs should stay focused on what they love and what they are good at. Almost everything else can be delegated to someone else in your organization or someone outside of your organization. One of the smartest things I’ve ever done as a business owner is delegating our bookkeeping and accounting to an outside firm. I didn’t enjoy doing it, and it took me twice as long as it should have.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I wish I would have started a business sooner than I did. That might sound funny coming from a 36-year-old who is on his third business, but I spent too much time in college listening to people who weren’t successful and too much time out of college trying to find a job that I wasn’t passionate about.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

You don’t need to read self-help or business books to be successful. You also don’t need a Peloton, but it will probably help you knock off some holiday weight.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Find time for your friends and family. My mom and dad ran a pretty successful business when I was growing up. I still haven’t figured out how they had the time to do the things they did with me. I think when you put your family first, it forces you to be more efficient in everything else you do. Your friends and family are probably your biggest cheerleaders, so make sure you give back by spending time with them. After all, life’s short, and tomorrow is never guaranteed.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Grow an online community alongside your business. This can be a Facebook group, a LinkedIn group, or any other online community. Position yourself as a thought leader within that community, and provide that community with as much valuable information as you can.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Trusting a business partner too much. I was forced out of my last business, which was in part due to me putting too much trust in our business relationship and not having our operating agreement looked over by a business lawyer.

I overcame this failure by realizing that it opened the door for a new and even better business opportunity that I never would have pursued had I continued as a partner in that business.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I haven’t figured out the exact business yet, but someone needs to create a multilevel marketing business that appeals to men.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I donated to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium on Giving Tuesday. I spent a year volunteering at the marine hospital caring for sick and injured dolphins and sea turtles while also educating the public on marine conservation. This year, Mote Marine scientists responded to hundreds of sea turtles and dolphins found stranded or deceased amid the Florida red tide bloom. Critical care for just one dolphin costs thousands of dollars per day.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I use Trello to keep track of my personal and professional goals, and we also use it at Boat Planet as our content and social media calendar. It’s a great way for everyone on our team to be on the same page.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

See my answer to No. 7. I’d rather listen to a podcast like Foundr.

What is your favorite quote?

“Nobody is promised a tomorrow, so make the most of today because today matters most!” — My uncle

Key Learnings:

  • Delegate, delegate, delegate.
  • Write down your goals, and find an accountability partner.
  • Write down your ideas, and organize them in terms of effort.
  • Find a problem with something you’re passionate about, develop a solution, and go all-in.
  • Life’s short. Make the most of today.